A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1990.
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The church, of which the south doorway is of the 12th century, was presumably established when the borough was founded by Henry II. The borough was created within Bladon parish and its church remained a chapel of ease, although rarely called a chapel after the 17th century. From an early date the town was an ecclesiastical centre: Woodstock rural deanery was established by the mid 13th century, and the rectors of Bladon were often called rectors of Woodstock. (fn. 34) The chapel acquired a measure of independence and was unusually closely controlled by the town corporation. It had its own burial ground by the 13th century, (fn. 35) and when chapel and burial ground were reconsecrated in 1336 the bishop's licence was granted not to the rector but to the vill. (fn. 36) In 1445 the leading burgesses joined with the chapelwardens in an agreement with Bladon parishioners over Woodstock's responsibility for repairs to Bladon church and churchyard, (fn. 37) presumably the lost 'composition' between Woodstock and Bladon which was several times consulted in the borough muniments. (fn. 38) In the 17th century the borough chamberlains and later the church-wardens were making an annual payment to the Bladon churchwardens, usually called the Bladon composition, rising from 3s. to 3s. 4d. a year; (fn. 39) a payment to Bladon in 1555 was probably arrears of the same composition. (fn. 40) After the mid 18th century the composition lapsed but was restored in 1807-8 when the chamberlains were persuaded to pay 68 years' arrears; (fn. 41) it was paid until the mid 19th century. (fn. 42)
From 1453, when the borough was incorporated and the rector and the chapelwardens of Woodstock were licensed to hold lands in mortmain for the maintenance of the chapel and a chaplain, (fn. 43) the corporation was closely involved in church administration. The proctors or chapelwardens accounted annually before the mayor, and the borough's earliest ledger, used chiefly to record conveyances in the portmoot, began as a record of the 'livelihood' or property of the chapel in 1461. (fn. 44) So close a relationship suggests the possibility that, as elsewhere, early corporate life in the borough had centred on a religious guild, (fn. 45) and that the instruments of 1453 merely confirmed and extended established arrangements. Thereafter the corporation supervised the principal endowed chantry and in the 1530s the rector and chapelwardens claimed to hold the chapel estate for the use of the mayor and commonalty. (fn. 46) After the Reformation the corporation dominated the vestry, co-ordinating townsmen's efforts to provide preaching and maintain the chapel.
Nevertheless the rectors of Bladon were expected to serve Woodstock, and they complained repeatedly of inadequate financial support from the borough. Before the Reformation there may have been an agreement between rector and townsmen over the chaplain's upkeep, (fn. 47) but no later arrangement has been traced. Urban tithes, difficult to collect, were probably commuted early: in 1591 some if not all townsmen were paying a 'rate' for all tithes. (fn. 48) In the early 19th century the rector maintained his right to tithe of gardens, although the only tithes collected were from the corporation meadows. By then the rector's income from Woodstock was only c. £25, including surplice fees and fees from endowed sermons; 'common dues' of 6d. from each family at Easter yielded c. £5 in 1811, while additional voluntary Easter offerings from leading townsmen yielded c. £6 10s. (fn. 49) The Easter dues may conceal an earlier and forgotten tithe modus from Woodstock, presumably distinct from the ½d. payments made by communicants for bread and wine in the 17th century and early 18th. (fn. 50) In 1847, when a rent charge was awarded for all tithes not extinguished by the Bladon inclosure award of 1766, the only titheable land within the borough was the corporation meadows and three small closes belonging to the duke of Marlborough. (fn. 51)
In 1686 Bishop Fell provided a rectory house in Woodstock at his own cost, making the corporation trustees of the freehold. (fn. 52) The site, a house at the park gate with an attached close on the south, had been acquired by the corporation in the 16th century, (fn. 53) and in 1683 Fell acquired the lease, built a new house in the close, and in 1686 paid £50 to the corporation to extinguish the rent; in the 1720s the former house was the rector's brewhouse. (fn. 54) The corporation agreed to hold the freehold in trust for the rector, who was to reside rent-free but pay for repairs; if he failed to reside the house was to be let and the rent applied to poor relief. (fn. 55) The house was let for several years from 1696 to Henry Beeston, deputy recorder, for £10 a year, and was again let in 1809 when £14 rent was given to the poor. (fn. 56)
The corporation and rector argued over repairs: in the early 19th century the rector, William Mavor, pointed out that the corporation had met the cost in the past, (fn. 57) but on his death in 1837 his executors were obliged to pay dilapidations. There were similar disputes later, the corporation sometimes contributing to repairs. (fn. 58) In 1862 the corporation considered using its trusteeship of the rectory house to evict an unsatisfactory rector. (fn. 59) In 1876 the patron, the duke of Marlborough, wanted to unite the rectory house with the living and make compensatory provision for poor relief, (fn. 60) but the corporation continued as trustee, treating the rectory house as a municipal charity. Confusion arose after a Scheme of 1909 made the rector and the churchwardens of Woodstock trustees of the rectory house charity, and in 1949 the corporation's ancient trusteeship was ignored when the house was conveyed to the Church Commissioners by the Official Trustees of Charitable Lands. (fn. 61) In 1982 the house was sold to a private owner and renamed the Bishop's House; a new rectory house was built at the south end of the grounds. (fn. 62)
The old rectory house, which cost Bishop Fell £600, (fn. 63) was built in local stone on a cruciform plan with the hall and parlour forming the main range, a stair and study in one wing, and perhaps a kitchen in the other. Original windows with chamfered stone surrounds and several bolection-moulded fireplaces survive. In the early 18th century tower-like blocks in the style of Vanbrugh were added in the eastern angles of the cross. It was alleged in 1724 that the rectory house, while occupied by Edward Strong, principal mason in the first stage of the Blenheim building works, was one of several places where Blenheim stone had been used illicitly. (fn. 64) Strong's occupancy was probably during the rectorship of Samuel Tilly, who resigned in 1712. (fn. 65) Other, probably later 18th-century, changes included panelling the principal rooms and rebuilding the central section of the west front with larger sash windows and rusticated quoins. (fn. 66) The house, very dilapidated when William Mavor died in 1837, was extensively repaired in the 1840s. (fn. 67) Later in the 19th century, perhaps in 1877 when the rector Arthur Majendie proposed costly alterations, (fn. 68) the centre of the west front was again rebuilt and a canted bay window added to the ground floor; a similar window was added on the east side of the south-eastern tower. The house was fully restored in the 1980s.
Some recorded medieval clerks and chaplains of Woodstock may have been attached to institutions other than Woodstock chapel. Besides chapels and chantries in the royal manor house (fn. 69) there were chapels in Hensington and medieval hospitals in or near the town, (fn. 70) and by the later 15th century Woodstock chapel contained two chantries with permanent chaplains. A chapel of St. John, apparently not in the manor house, was repaired at royal expense in 1234-5; (fn. 71) it may have been the town's chapel, although that probably bore its present dedication to St. Mary Magdalene by 1319 when a new fair was established at Woodstock on her feast day. (fn. 72) By 1463 the chapel contained chapels of St. Mary the Virgin and St. Margaret, (fn. 73) and before the Reformation there were lights or altars of St. Mary Magdalene, St. Cross, the Holy Trinity, St. John, St. Christopher, St. Clement, and St. Roke. (fn. 74) Besides the incumbents of permanent chantries there seem to have been temporary chaplains, for c. 1498, when Thomas Bailly gave a house in Woodstock to support a chaplain for a year, the mayor strove to prevent the fee passing to David Yale, one of the chantry priests. (fn. 75)
In 1520 the chapelwardens reported unfavourably on the condition of the nave and burial ground, and complained that the non-resident rector provided, even for Bladon, no curate except a friar. (fn. 76) In 1521, however, John Lyn, described as parish priest, witnessed a townsman's will. (fn. 77) In 1526 the Woodstock clergy comprised three chantry priests (of whom one was at the manor house) and a curate whose salary was £5 6s. 8d. (fn. 78) Then and in 1535 the curate's salary was not deducted from the rector's taxable income, and may have been provided by the townsmen; in 1535 reference was made to a curate's salary of £6 by composition and ancient custom. (fn. 79) In 1540, however, the rector was failing to provide a suitable curate and had served the cure himself only once in ten years; he was ordered to find a curate and to preach there four times a year. (fn. 80) In the 1540s a curate, John Coxeter, regularly witnessed wills, (fn. 81) and when the chantries were suppressed in 1548 the Woodstock clergy comprised a curate and two well qualified chantry priests, of whom one had a deputy. (fn. 82) One of the pensioned chaplains, Martin Cave, served probably as curate and schoolmaster until his death in 1571. (fn. 83) The curate Anthony Noble (d. 1617) may also have been schoolmaster. (fn. 84)
In the early 17th century the vigorous church life of Woodstock owed much to the corporation, which contributed to repairs and the entertainment of visiting preachers. (fn. 85) In 1616, for example, preachers were entertained on 16 occasions between January and October, and only rarely were sermons given by the rector, Edward Evans, although he was probably the noted Oxford university preacher of that name. (fn. 86) On some days there were two sermons and double sermons seem to have become more frequent in the 1620s. Several endowed sermons were founded in the early 17th century. (fn. 87) Evans's successor Thomas Browne, rector 1621-5, preached regularly and in 1623 was wined by the corporation for 15 sermons, including those at all the major feasts. Dr. John Prideaux, rector 1625-41, although resident in Oxford where he was regius professor of divinity, (fn. 88) preached regularly, as did his curate George Self. In 1637 wine was given to 24 preachers and in 1639 to over 30. Most visiting preachers were local clergy or fellows of Oxford colleges. William Laud, president of St. John's College and later archbishop of Canterbury, (fn. 89) preached many times between 1612 and 1621. Leading divines such as George Hakewill and Henry Tozer were perhaps secured because of Prideaux's Oxford connexions. (fn. 90) There is little sign that preachers were selected for particular theological views.
In 1631 weekly lectures were established with the bishop's consent, the corporation paying 1s. to the preachers for their dinners. At the first lecture the corporation entertained all 13 clergy present; the series was given before the king in the royal chapel in the park. Probably at Laud's behest lectures ceased in October 1633: lecturers had included the bishop and the rector, and, as with the visiting preachers, there was no consistent puritan influence. Lectures were revived in 1641 and flourished until disrupted by the Civil War. (fn. 91)
In the 17th century rectors frequently employed curates for both Bladon and Woodstock. (fn. 92) The Woodstock curates, mostly Oxford graduates, were usually resident and sometimes long serving: George Self resided for 11 years before obtaining a living in 1641. (fn. 93) Thomas Jones, probably son of Thomas Jones, rector of Wootton, (fn. 94) was curate throughout the Civil War and, although the Bladon living was sequestrated, served for much of the Interregnum. Some time after the royalist surrender of Woodstock in 1646 the vicar of Iffley was imprisoned at Woodstock for reading the prayer book service, (fn. 95) and in 1649 the corporation entertained Dr. Nicholas Darton, a noted Presbyterian. (fn. 96) Thomas Jones may have been replaced as curate by Thomas Widdowes, schoolmaster 1646- 1653, who is said to have been also minister, (fn. 97) but Jones was recorded as minister from 1652. (fn. 98) In 1656 the Trustees for the Maintenance of Ministers agreed to pay £50 a year for Woodstock's minister, and in 1657 appointed Samuel Blower at £60 a year. (fn. 99) Blower, later a noted Presbyterian, was still nominally lecturer at Woodstock at the Restoration, when he was ejected, (fn. 1) but between 1657 and 1660 Thomas Jones continued to attend the vestry as minister. (fn. 2)
In 1667 the curate was admonished for failing to wear a hood or say midweek prayers. (fn. 3) The corporation failed in 1675 and 1694 to secure the separation of Woodstock from Bladon, (fn. 4) but local pressure and the growth of nonconformity may have contributed to Bishop Fell's decision to provide a rectory house in the town. Fell was presumably influenced by his Christ Church colleague Humphrey Prideaux, rector 1683-6, who, though resident in Oxford, served Woodstock regularly himself and paid a curate to provide two services each Sunday. (fn. 5) Prideaux's curate, Henry Meux (d. 1709), continued as Woodstock's curate for many years. (fn. 6) The new rectory house, however, did not guarantee satisfactory service for Woodstock: John Hersent, rector 1686-1702, was the first of several rectors to deny that Fell's benefaction created new obligations to serve Woodstock, and when both he and the corporation refused to pay the curate's salary the earls of Abingdon, as high stewards, intervened and from 1695 until 1702 paid Meux £20 a year. (fn. 7)
Samuel Tilly, rector 1704-12, the last Crown presentee, was the earl of Abingdon's chaplain. (fn. 8) His successors were political adherents of their patrons, the Marlboroughs. Most were active in town affairs and some were distinguished, notably William Baker, rector 1712-15, later bishop of Norwich, and Benjamin Holloway, F.R.S., rector 1736-9. (fn. 9) Sir Robert Cocks, 1715-36, described by Hearne as a blockhead, (fn. 10) preached regularly at Woodstock and was a benefactor to the town. (fn. 11) In 1738 there were two Sunday services there and communion c. 8 times a year for between 60 and 80 communicants; the threat of nonconformity had passed and the rector complained only of absenteeism and indifference. (fn. 12) From the later 17th century there were frequent pew disputes, (fn. 13) and the extent of private pews was later blamed for absenteeism by the poor. (fn. 14)
From 1739, when Holloway resigned in favour of his son Benjamin (d. 1777), Woodstock was served for a hundred years by only four rectors. Usually they employed one or two curates, of whom several were also headmaster of the grammar school. (fn. 15) One early 19th-century rector complained that the £80 which he paid his curate was more than twice his income from the chapelry. (fn. 16) In 1759 there were two Sunday services and a sermon at Woodstock, with prayers on Wednesdays, Fridays, and certain saints' days, and the pattern of services was largely unchanged in 1834. (fn. 17) In the 1790s six or seven communion services were held each year, and although the number of communicants varied greatly the average was c. 70. (fn. 18) In 1787 the estimated Sunday congregation was 600, and probably then, as in the 1830s, the church was used by the inhabitants of Old Woodstock and Blenheim Park. (fn. 19) A Sunday school was established in 1787 and supported thereafter by regular fund-raising sermons. (fn. 20)
William Mavor, rector 1810-37 and formerly curate, was a schoolmaster, tutor to the Marlboroughs, a prolific writer of educational and guide books, and ten times mayor. (fn. 21) As a county magistrate he was frequently mocked as 'the tool of Blenheim'. (fn. 22) He complained of the high costs and low rewards of serving Woodstock, although his income from Bladon, from another living at Hurley (Berks.), and from the duke of Marlborough was probably substantial. (fn. 23) His successor Joseph Bowles, rector 1840-7, quarrelled with the duke of Marlborough, complaining that the duke's chaplain, Thomas Curme, interfered in parish visiting and that the duke frustrated his plans to establish a National school and improve church seating. The duke complained to the bishop that Bowles had circulated malicious gossip about his family's contributions to the collection plate. (fn. 24) Bowles greatly increased the congregation at Woodstock, but his conduct of services, particularly at Bladon, was criticized. (fn. 25)
G. W. St. John, rector 1847-76, apparently persuaded the bishop that responsibility for serving Woodstock had passed to the corporation with the gift of former chantry land in 1565. (fn. 26) For most of St. John's incumbency the Marlborough family paid a curate for Woodstock, (fn. 27) and in the 1870s the corporation made contributions to the curate's salary. (fn. 28) Woodstock's status remained in doubt: it was sometimes described as a curacy attached to Bladon (fn. 29) but one 'officiating minister' stressed that he served Woodstock only as the duke's private chaplain. (fn. 30) W. A. Scott, curate 1851-7, quarrelled with the rector after establishing lectures in the schoolroom without permission. (fn. 31) His successor, Edward Geare, was a vigorous evangelical at odds with the rector over his preaching and with some parishioners over the school; his farwell sermon in 1859 was attended by the nonconformist congregations, and only the corporation and ducal pews were vacant. (fn. 32) In 1862 St. John resolutely refused to hold services despite the lack of a curate, and only the voluntary effort of the rector of Stonesfield kept the church open; in 1871 St. John was again justifying his refusal to serve. (fn. 33) Congregations declined and nonconformity flourished: on census day in 1851 there were 284 at the morning service and 341 at the afternoon, and 74 Sunday school children at each, but by 1869 congregations were c. 90 and there were very few communicants. (fn. 34a)
Under Arthur Majendie, rector 1876-95, Woodstock experienced belatedly the revival of religious life characteristic of the mid 19th century. Majendie at times employed two curates and introduced weekly communion services, and by the 1890s there were three Sunday services. Although he complained of indifference, dissent, and drink the congregations icreased sharply, and by the 1880s there were over 200 communicants. (fn. 35a) Within his first two years Majendie brought about the restoration of the church, opened a mission room in Old Woodstock (replaced by St. Andrew's church in 1886), and secured the transfer of Old Woodstock to Bladon for ecclesiastical purposes. (fn. 36a) He provided a church house (no. 11 Park Street), where there were clubs and a choir room, (fn. 37a) and he was prominent in the Woodstock Churchmen's Union which met regularly 1867- 1884. (fn. 38a)
In the 20th century the relationship between parish and chapelry, sometimes referred to as the 'Woodstock problem', continued to cause friction. (fn. 39a)
The principal chantry in Woodstock chapel, dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin, probably dated from 1453 when the rector and chapelwardens were licensed to acquire property to the value of £10 to maintain the fabric and provide a chaplain to pray for the king and queen and for their souls after death. (fn. 40a) There was a chapel of St. Mary by 1463, (fn. 41a) and in the 1530s the chantry of Our Lady was attributed to Henry VI's grant of 1453. (fn. 42a) Nevertheless the same chantry was sometimes called St. Mary Magdalene's, as in 1497 and 1528, (fn. 43a) and some tenements were described indifferently as belonging to Woodstock chapel and to Our Lady's chantry. (fn. 44a) The identity of chapel and chantry property presumably accounts for the confusion of nomenclature.
The known benefactors of the chantry were all from leading 15th-century burgess families. (fn. 45a) In 1461 the chapel's property comprised ten houses, several stalls and chambers, and a shop, yielding a total of c. £3 11s. a year; there were additional reserved rents worth 5s., (fn. 46a) and more benefactions were made before the Reformation. (fn. 47a) In 1497 the chantry priest seems to have held a life interest in the property, which he let for £6, of which £5 6s. 8d. was to be paid to his deputy for serving the chantry. (fn. 48a) That fee was unchanged in 1534-5 when the town council directly appointed a chaplain to celebrate daily for the founder (presumably Henry VI) and to pray by name for all benefactors at four requiem masses a year. (fn. 49a) In 1535 the property was said to be worth only £5 5s. (fn. 50a) but when the chantry was suppressed in 1548 it was valued at over £10 net. The chaplain, Martin Cave, was said to receive the profits but was later reported to have a salary of £4, which sum was allowed him as a pension. (fn. 51a)
The Crown sold some of the chantry's property in 1549 (fn. 52a) and more, including the chantry house, which Martin Cave still occupied, in 1553. (fn. 53a) The chaplain's house may have stood east of a passage from Park Street to the north door of the church, and was perhaps the building called King John's Cottages demol-ished in 1755. (fn. 54a) The remaining property of St. Mary's chantry in 1557, worth £6 6s. 4d. a year, (fn. 55a) was granted to Woodstock corporation in 1565; it then comprised 13 houses, 4 shops, and rents of 15s. 8d. (fn. 56a)
By 1463 there was a chapel of St. Margaret in Woodstock chapel. (fn. 57a) Thomas Croft (d. 1488), a merchant and royal servant who shared with his brother Richard the control of Woodstock manor and park, (fn. 58a) left property in Woodstock, in several Oxfordshire villages, and in Bristol to maintain a chaplain to serve daily in St. Margaret's chapel and two almsmen to pray for the Croft family. The chaplain was to receive £6 a year and the almsmen 1d. a day each, and all were to live in a recently built chantry house next to the churchyard gate. Croft, probably childless, ordained that future chaplains and one of the almsmen should be chosen by his brother Richard and his heirs, the other almsman by the mayor and proctors. (fn. 59a)
The chantry house stood west of the passage to the north door of the chapel on the site of a house acquired by Croft in 1479. (fn. 60a) The chantry property seems to have been administered separately from that of the chapel and there is no evidence of corporate involvement. In 1526 the chantry priest, Thomas Harris, was taxed on £5 6s. 8d. and in 1535 the chantry was valued at £6, of which c. 26s. was allowed for various rents. (fn. 61a) When the chantry was suppressed in 1548 its gross value was £8 9s. and the chaplain, Edward Jones, was granted a pension of £6. Jones, learned but non-resident, evidently paid a chantry priest who occupied the chantry house. (fn. 62a) In 1549 the Crown sold the chantry property to George Owen and William Marten: it comprised the chantry house and 10 other houses or shops in Woodstock, including the George inn, and houses or land in Old Woodstock, Woodeaton, South Weston, Hensington, and Shiptonon-Cherwell; rent income was £7 15s. 8d. gross. (fn. 63a) Owen and Marten sold the chantry house to the corporation as an almshouse in 1551 (fn. 64a) and the rest of the estate was broken up by the later 16th century. (fn. 65a)
Margery Nurse (d. 1609) left money for four sermons, all of which seem to have been preached in 1609-10. (fn. 66a) William Metcalfe (d. 1608), alderman, left 8s. a year for a sermon on the Sunday after Candlemas; in 1639 Metcalfe's son William transferred responsibility for maintaining the sermons to the corporation. (fn. 67a) In 1617 Thomas Fletcher of London left £4 a year for five sermons and £4 a year to be distributed to the poor who attended. (fn. 68a) In 1621 Thomas Browne, alderman, gave to the corporation £10 to provide two sermons at Christmas and Easter. (fn. 69a) In 1637 Richard Nash of Old Wood stock left £20 for a Whitsun sermon. (fn. 70a) From 1738 the trustees of the rector Sir Robert Cocks (d. 1735) provided 1 gn. a year for a sermon on 10 February (changed in the 19th century to 10 May) at which a bread charity was distributed. (fn. 71a) In 1806 and 1825 the chamberlains were paying to the rector £6 8s. for nine sermons, and the tenth was paid for by the trustees of Cocks's school; from 1842 the fee was reduced to £4 12s., reflecting a fall in income. (fn. 72a) In the 1860s the corporation threatened to withhold fees unless the rector preached the sermons. (fn. 73a) The endowed sermons became registered charities governed by Schemes of 1906 and 1909. (fn. 74a)
The church of ST. MARY MAGDALENE comprises an aisled and clerestoried nave, chancel, north-east chapel and vestry, north-west tower, and west porch. (fn. 75a) Of the chapel built for Henry II's new borough only the 12th-century south doorway, with two continuous orders of zigzag divided by roll moulding, may be identified. The doorway may have been reset when the south aisle was built in the 13th century, the date of the two windows at the east end of the south wall and of the heavily restored south arcade which incorporates original capitals with heads and stiff-leaf foliage; the piscina in the south aisle is probably also 13th-century. A bell tower mentioned in 1279 (fn. 76a) stood on the north side of the church. By the 18th century the pinnacled tower, apparently rebuilt or heightened in the 15th century, (fn. 77a) was flanked on the west by a short north aisle, and on the east by a schoolroom on the site of a former northeast chapel. The north aisle, under a separate, high-pitched roof, was at that time thought to be the core of the original church but was probably later than the tower: the south side of the tower opened into the nave, but its west wall formed the east end of a chapel in the north aisle, and carried a medieval wall painting and a piscina. (fn. 78a) In the 13th century the north door, probably opposite the surviving south door, was approached from Park Street by a stile and passage between houses fronting the street; (fn. 79a) the houses, both occupied by chantry priests in the later Middle Ages, were not removed until the 18th century. (fn. 80a) There was a porch at the north door by the early 17th century. (fn. 81a)
The original chancel seems to have been extended eastwards in the 14th century when the much restored east window and easternmost window of the south wall were inserted; the heavily restored chancel arch was probably also of that date but the piscina may be 13th-century. The west door and west window were inserted in the nave in the 14th century, and the nave clerestory was added probably c. 1400; the flat, parapeted south aisle roof, much restored, may have been part of that rebuilding. In the 15th century the chancel was buttressed on the south and a large three-light window inserted. The west porch, notable for its plain vaulted stone roof, was added in the 15th century or early 16th.
A surviving doorway discovered in the north wall of the chancel in 1876 suggests that the former north-east chapel was of the 15th century or earlier, (fn. 82a) perhaps the chantry chapel of St. Mary. The chapel in the north aisle, thought in the 18th century to have been St. Mary's chantry, (fn. 83a) seems more likely to have been that of St. Margaret: a lost memorial to its founder, Thomas Croft (d. 1488), was probably there. (fn. 84a) From the early 17th century until the mid 19th the former north-east chapel served as a schoolroom for the grammar school; it included a living chamber, and was apparently rebuilt in the later 17th century. (fn. 85a) It was bought from the school trustees and demolished in 1878. (fn. 86a)
The chancel may have been reroofed in the 16th century, since before partial restoration in the 19th century the roof was described as 'Elizabethan and bad'. (fn. 87a) In 1648, when the church housed military prisoners in transit, many pews were used for firewood. (fn. 88a) By the 19th century the church was crowded with high box pews and galleries, mostly arranged to provide a view of the pulpit near the centre of the south arcade. (fn. 89a) There were official pews for councillors, their wives, and borough officers, and the owners of Woodstock House had a large pew in the chancel. (fn. 90a) In the 1730s there were only 47 private pews for some 120 rate-paying families, (fn. 91a) and pressure for space increased as gentry moved into houses without satisfactory attached pews. In 1678 the council built a gallery for the mayor and aldermen above their existing pews near the chancel arch. (fn. 92a) The corporation gallery, which until 1876 surmounted the chancel screen in place of an earlier rood loft, (fn. 93a) has been attributed, probably in error, to Lord Lovelace, who in or before 1678 built a pew which the corporation was seeking to acquire in 1697. (fn. 94a) A singers' gallery at the west end, extended in the 18th century, was said to have been built in 1691 with the profits of Whitsun ales, although described in the 19th century as Elizabethan. (fn. 95a) In 1676 Jane Harris was permitted to build a private gallery between two columns, in 1683 Edward, earl of Lichfield, was given permission to clip arches to accommodate a gallery, in 1713 the corporation built a gallery for parish officers under the tower arch, and in 1769 a private gallery was built in the south arcade. (fn. 96a) Lichfield's gallery may not have been built, (fn. 97a) but it was noted in the 19th century that the whole inner order of arches in the south arcade had been removed to provide headroom for other galleries. (fn. 98a)
The tower, covered in roughcast in 1701, was causing concern by 1755 when its pinnacles were removed. In 1759 it was judged unsafe to ring the bells and in 1774 the tower was pulled down to roof level. (fn. 99a) A subscription was raised (fn. 1a) but nothing was done until 1782 when a new subscription was launched for the tower and north aisle: the duke contributed £200 and the corporation £100 to a total of £700, but eventually the tower alone cost £900. (fn. 2a) In 1783 the old tower and aisle were replaced by a new aisle designed by John Yenn, of two bays with plain arches and tall, round-headed windows, and containing a panelled 'duke's gallery'. In 1784-6 a new tower designed by Stephen Townesend of Oxford was built at the north-west corner by Townesend and John Churchill of Woodstock; (fn. 3a) soon afterwards the north aisle was extended westward by one bay, incorporating a north door and portico. To provide carriage access Alderman Joseph Brooks, churchwarden and organizer of the rebuilding, in 1786 bought and demolished the King's Head inn, the former St. Margaret's chantry house. (fn. 4a) The pews were rearranged, (fn. 5a) and it was probably then that the south door was partially blocked and fenestrated and the window to the west turned into a door, directly opposite the new north door. (fn. 6a)
Yenn's tall north aisle was criticized for its 'melancholy and most ungainly contrast' with the rest of the church, and in 1855 the interior was said to contain a 'mass of pseudo Classical frippery'. (fn. 7a) The church was thoroughly restored (fn. 8a) by A. W. Blomfield in 1877-8. The north aisle and the grammar school were replaced by an arcaded north aisle, a north chapel open to the chancel, and at the east end a vestry surmounted by an organ loft. The long-disused west door and porch became the main entrance, the 12th-century south door was reopened, and the door west of it turned back to a window. Some south aisle and chancel windows were restored with different tracery. All roofs were restored and a clerestory inserted on the north to balance that on the south, where only the second window from the east is original. The chancel arch was restored after the removal of the corporation gallery. The church was repewed with open seats facing east and the pulpit and lectern were placed near the chancel arch. A heating system and gas lighting were introduced. (fn. 9a)
In 1896-8 the south arcade and clerestory, found to be collapsing, were rebuilt and the south aisle buttressed; (fn. 10a) a fifth clerestory window was added above the south door, replacing a sundial which was moved further west. (fn. 11a) In 1950 the courtyard on the north side of the church was redesigned as a war memorial garden. Major repairs were carried out in the 1960s, and in 1969 the pinnacles and balustrade of the tower, removed in 1948, were replaced. (fn. 12a)
Before 1731 the carved octagonal 14th-century font was removed from the church and replaced by a slim pedestal and bowl. The old font was kept in the garden of no. 9 Park Street until reinstalled in the church and given a new base in 1877-8. (fn. 13a) The pulpit, which contains 15th-century work, was also given a new base then. Blomfield retained the 15th-century chancel screen, but erected a reredos of Bath stone in place of a carved oak reredos with Corinthian columns given by the duke of Marlborough in 1802. (fn. 14a) The 17th-century panelling re-used in the organ loft was presumably from one of the former galleries; the carved notice board near the west door is also of the 17th century. Organs from Woodstock church were borrowed for use at the royal manor house during Henry VIII's visit in 1518. (fn. 15a) In 1628 the organ case was sold and the pipes stored temporarily in the town hall. (fn. 16) In 1802 a barrel organ was sold and a 'finger organ' installed in the singers' gallery. (fn. 17a) After the restoration of 1877-8 a new organ was placed in the north chapel. (fn. 18a)
Two panels of late 15th-century glass depicting episodes in the life of Thomas Becket, given to the Bodleian Library in 1797, are thought to have been removed from Woodstock church. (fn. 19a) In the early 16th century the church contained glass depicting the same subject, (fn. 20a) and it is likely that the donor acquired the glass after the north aisle was demolished in 1784. The panels, regarded as unusually distinguished work, may have been associated with the chapel endowed by Thomas Croft (d. 1488). (fn. 21a) A fragment of early 14th-century glass from the east window was reset in the vestry in 1884. (fn. 22a) Armorial glass commemorating the families of Chaucer and Golafre, both associated with the royal manor and park in the 15th century, (fn. 23a) was lost after the 17th century. Glass in the west window depicting Henry V and his brothers was said in 1645 to have been broken by parliamentary troops. (fn. 24a) From the late 19th century most of the church windows were filled with stained glass, notably the east window by Burlison & Grylls commemorating the duke of Marlborough (d. 1883), and the west window and another in the north chapel commemorating the rector Arthur Majendie (d. 1895). (fn. 25a)
The earliest monuments are a brass to Richard Bailly, citizen and haberdasher of London and chapman of Woodstock (d. 1461), and a stone tablet and brass to Jerome Kyte (d. 1631), fellow of St. John's College, Oxford. (fn. 26a) Lost monuments include a brass, formerly in the chancel, depicting Edward Chamberlain (d. 1543), his wife, and six sons and six daughters, and monuments, defaced by the 1660s, to Thomas Croft (d. 1488) and his wife Elizabeth (d. 1480) and to Robert Whitehill, comptroller of the park 1496-1523. (fn. 27a) Among later monuments are those to Edward Ryves (d. 1767), town clerk; to Thomas Walker (d. 1804), the duke's auditor and town clerk of both Oxford and Woodstock; to Benjamin Holloway (d. 1777), rector, and several of his family; to Dr. Thomas King (d. 1801), rector, and his family, notably his brother Capt. James King (d. 1784), companion of the circumnavigator Cook on his last voyage, of which he wrote the history while at Woodstock; (fn. 28a) to George Coles (d. 1841), surgeon; and to Henry Palmer, surgeon, who died in the church during his mayoralty in 1864. A large tablet recording the achievements of William Mavor (d. 1837), rector and mayor, was formerly on the outside of the west wall.
In 1608 William Metcalfe, alderman, left £ 2 to the corporation to buy a new bell. (fn. 29a) Bells were cast or repaired by Abraham More of Reading in 1614 and James Keene of Woodstock in 1633. (fn. 30a) Inscriptions on later bells (fn. 31a) suggest that in the 17th century there was a ring of three to which in 1662 Edward Atkyns, recorder and M.P., added a treble and in 1666 Sir Thomas Spencer, high steward, a tenor. (fn. 32a) Probably the new bells were from the Keene foundry; Richard Keene was brought in to tune the ring in 1680. (fn. 33a) In 1708, using donations which included £100 from the duke of Marlborough, (fn. 34b) the five bells were cast into six by William and Henry Bagley. In 1785, when the ring was moved to the new tower, it was increased to eight by the duke's gift of two smaller bells cast by Robert Wells. The surviving saunce, set for chiming, may be that mentioned in the mid 18th century. (fn. 35b)
In 1691 John Cary gave a rent charge of 10s. a year from Wilcote to pay the parish clerk or sexton to ring a curfew bell at 8.00 p.m. to guide travellers; the bell was rung in winter until 1939. (fn. 36b) A church clock by John Rayer of Oxford was installed in 1638. (fn. 37b) In 1708 a chiming mechanism was installed to play popular tunes. (fn. 38b) In 1792 John Briant of Hertford installed the surviving clock and a new chiming mechanism to play six different tunes each day. The chimes were restored with an electric mechanism in 1956 after an appeal launched in 1953 to celebrate the quincentenary of the borough and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Briant's mechanism is preserved in the town hall. (fn. 39b)
In 1613 the church possessed a chalice and cover, (fn. 40b) but the earliest surviving plate is a silver chalice and paten of 1630-1. Walter Pryse of Woodstock House in 1743 gave a silver flagon and repaired a silver paten given by Susanna Grove in 1704. A silver almsbox of 1772 was given by Benjamin Holloway, rector, and a silver almsplate was given by Sophia Brown in 1845. (fn. 41b)
The churchyard contains several 18th-century chest tombs. (fn. 42b) In the 13th century the churchyard was smaller, with houses on its southern edge; (fn. 43b) the present southern boundary was established by 1811. (fn. 44b) Leases of the churchyard to the corporation and its subtenants in the 16th century and 17th (fn. 45b) were perhaps of the herbage or of an unused part. In the 18th century the owners of the King's Head inn on the north side of the church had a right of way through the churchyard to their stables on its western edge. (fn. 46b) After the inn was demolished in 1786 the stables were turned into a cottage row known as Church Alley, demolished c. 1870; the site, given to the church in 1878, is marked by a rectangular projection of the churchyard southwest of the church. (fn. 47b)
The earliest register is of 1653, but separate registration in the chapelry was by then long established. (fn. 48b) Woodstock was a centre for civil marriages during the Interregnum, and a popular marriage centre in the 18th century before the Hardwicke Act. (fn. 49b)